The queues which always form in front of these Middle Eastern wrap-merchants’ stall says it all. Father and son team Tim and Tom Monkhouse are kings of the street food scene with their shawarma chicken wraps, homemade falafels and stonking halloumi fries. They’re hoping to have their new Whitley Bay base on Park View up and running in the New Year too.
Scream For Pizza
Alex Walker and Victoria Featherby’s woodfired-oven-on-van model is simple, and they make making extraordinary pizzas look really simple too – top-quality dough, bright, punchy tomato and authentic mozzarella are joined by a rotating cast of special toppings. We love the Brooklyn Bee, drizzled with chilli honey. Bellissimo.
Fat Hippo Burger Bar
It’s not actually possible to go to a social gathering in the North East without bumping into Fat Hippo’s travelling burger bar – food markets, weddings, your auntie’s post-hip-op shindig, you name it. Their restaurants get the attention these days, but street food is where they started and it's still the purest incarnation of their art: pink burgers, an arsenal of toppings, and that near-mythic Fat Hippo burger sauce, which is so good they ought to make an eau de cologne out of it.
The Little Fishy
No ordinary floppy-haddock chippy, this: get some panko-breaded cod and twice-cooked chips with a storming tartare sauce, or try the ultimate fish finger sandwich. It definitely lives up to its billing. This is classic British cooking down with gastro flair and style.
Having only fired up their grills earlier this year, The Grind have made a big impact in an already sardine-tight dirty burger market. The secret? Two smashed patties (it gives you more charring, you see), mighty fine burger sauce and some swish 50s-tinged styling. Our food editor was so overexcited on eating his first one that he accidentally chomped his own fingers.
Pasta doesn’t strike one as the most practical of street food bites, but Sghetti Monster make it work. Alongside the classic spag bol, there's the monster meatball sub with purple slaw, basil, parmesan and garlic mayo and the gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan-friendly rainbow spaghetti which teams pesto with spiralised courgette and carrot. How very 2016.
The Sweet Beet
Texan Lizzy Hodcroft’s wraps, tacos and nachos lean heavily on the beetroot which gives her stand its name, but don’t let distant, terrible memories of pickled beetroot from roasts past put you off. This is healthy, vibrant stuff: big Texas flavours meet fresh, modern élan, with a blob of one or another of Lizzy’s zingy preserves, jellies and jams on top.
Now, here’s something unique: a pop-up Japanese restaurant which specialises in bento boxes – you know, the voguish all-in-one comfort food tubs which you see students knocking about with, the ones with rice, veg and panko-breaded meat or fish – as well as katsu curries and sushi. IT's as authentic a Japanese meal as you’ll get without arm-wrestling Godzilla.
Chuck your burritos in the bin, set fire to your nachos and pour that dodgy tequila you picked up at duty-free down the drain: Californian chef Shaun Hurrell is here to sort you out with some proper Mexican flavours at his pop-up. Try an Oaxacan chilli-marinated chicken tostada with cream, roasted seeds and pink onions. The tequilas are authentic 100 percent agave examples too.
As we mentioned before, the dirty burger phenomenon shows no signs of abating. How, though, do you make a dirty burger dirtier? You make it out of a parmo. Don’t try to resist its gooey, béchamel-y charms. Parmstar shows that, with a little care taken over it – it’s all handmade, and the meat’s from top Yorkshire farms – the parmo can stand proudly next to its cooler, more cosmopolitan street food cousins.
The Doughnut Guy
The Doughnut Guy does doughnuts, and absolutely excellent ones like that. Get hold of a pot of three, drizzle on your chocolate, caramel syrup or raspberry, pile on your mini-marshmallows, sprinkles and whatnot, and try to remember to stop chomping on the little boules of joy long enough to breathe in. It's a common problem on your first go.
Acropolis Street Food
We don’t tend to do Greek food particularly well in this country – indeed, beyond halloumi, most people would point to kebabs as their favourite Greek dish, and that's Turkish. Acropolis are the real deal though, and their souvlaki is a league apart from the greasy, dismal, post-club kebab: fresh, light and made of quality components.
The eternal problem of Indian food – namely, that it’s hard to carry a curry around with you in one hand while the other Instagrams it – has been neatly solved here with the introduction of a thick, pillowy naan as a bed, turning the whole thing into a kind of floppy open pie. Proper naan, proper meats, proper sauces and properly hefty tandoori flavours.
On the Goa
An alternative solution to what we'll call The Eternal Curry Conundrum here: there are Indian favourites like Goan chicken curry or chicken kathi rejigged into a portable wrap configuration, as well as bowls of rice with curries like chicken xacuti.
Not strictly street food per se, but the ethos here – craft, care, and more choice than you can shake a stuffed crust at – is totally on point. Grabbing one of their pizzas, made on dough slow-risen for 20 hours and topped with fresh veg and top produce, and eating it hot straight from the box, is even more so.
Central America is the source for this one – they sling Cubanos, hot flat-pressed sandwiches stuffed with cheese, pickles and, most importantly, meat marinated in citrus juices, herbs and other spicy bits and pieces. Just don't call it a panini.
There's a lot of meat in this list, but there's a growing veggie scene within the street food scene at large and Green Guerrilla are at the vanguard of it. They’re veggie burgers, but not the dry, apologetic rubbish you get at the bottom of your average pub menu as an afterthought: they’re packed with oomph.
La Petite Crêperie
While this none-more-authentic French crêperie’s traditional sweet crêpes are what’s made their name – and you'd be well advised to make their chocolate sauce crêpe your entry point if you're a newbie – their rapturously-received savoury gluten-free buckwheat galettes are totally brilliant too.